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'Gang of Five' Tries to Keep Talks Alive

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Even if Coburn had stayed engaged and the group came up with a deal, it could have been dead on arrival, some Senators said.

Republicans, in particular, said that increasing revenues wouldn’t fly, even if overall tax rates were lowered.

“I think that’s part of the reason why they weren’t able to reach an agreement,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said of the plan to increase revenues. “That’s definitely off the table.”

“I think it would have been very, very hard to get the Republicans in the House to go forward,” Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) said. “That’s been my view all along, that if they came up with something that was quote ‘balanced,’ in the sense that it had spending cuts and revenues increases in it, that would be DOA in the House.”

Several moderate Democrats expressed hope that the talks could get back on track.

“I had a lot of hope invested in it, as I think a lot of people did,” Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) said. “You had Democrats prepared to support spending cuts and Republicans prepared to support revenue increases, and that’s got to be the way it goes.”

Others theorized that Coburn left because of forces outside the group.

“I think that Sen. Coburn was under immense pressure from Grover Norquist and some of those folks who are in denial about whether or not we’ve got to look at tax expenditures and revenue,” Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said. “I still want to hold out hope that he’ll come back and continue to work on it. He is somebody who has, for all the right reasons, a lot of credibility on this subject, and I think we’re going to need him in the negotiations.”

But some conservative Republicans, who have been skeptical of the talks from the beginning, cheered.

Coburn’s fellow Oklahoma Republican, Sen. James Inhofe, said he was “very happy” Coburn had pulled out. The group “made people believe that the problem was a bipartisan problem and it wasn’t,” he said.

McConnell reiterated that he sees the Biden talks as the vehicle for reaching a deficit reduction deal.

“They’re the ones where the president is at the table and only the president can sign something into law,” he said.

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